Curtiss XP-62 Fighter Aircraft Prototype
The Curtiss XP-62 fighter project was cancelled as quickly as it achieved a first flight in prototype form - all during 1943.
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Curtiss Aeroplane's success in delivering a U.S. Army fighter was in the classic P-40 "Warhawk" line. However, this was a pre-war design through and through and many attempts by the company to secure additional Army contracts in the fighter field ultimately failed. There were also attempts to improve upon the original P-40 product itself and these also fell to naught as competitors like Lockheed, Republic, and North American swooped in to nab the potentially lucrative Army deals on the table.
The XP-62 was devised by Curtiss to build a very fast fighter platform around the then-largest radial piston engine available - the Wright R-3350 "Cyclone 18". The work began even before the United States was to commit to the World War which came in December of 1941. During January of that year, Curtiss approached U.S. Army authorities with its plans and convinced them about the fighter's potential, managing to secure funding for the endeavor before the end of the month.
The Cyclone engine was already in the works, begun in 1936, but it had proved itself wholly temperamental to the point that delays were commonplace. Beyond its sheer size, the engine was rated for over 2,000 horsepower output and found its best use as the drive plant for the famous Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" heavy bomber still to come (this bomber used four such engines). Perhaps more interestingly was its use to power a more compact fighter aircraft - giving it unprecedented speed and performance factors to be unrivaled at the time. During this period, the Wright product was one of the most powerful of its kind - the Wright R-3350-17 model was selected to power the XP-62 design and provide upwards of 2,300 horsepower output. A turbo-supercharger was to also form part of the engine's installation. Because of the forces at play, a large diameter (over 13 feet) six-bladed contra-rotating propeller would be fitted to the front of the aircraft.
Beyond its massive radial, the aircraft was to feature modern metal skin construction, a pressurized cockpit for high-altitude flight and a then-impressive armament fit of 12 x 0.50 caliber Browning heavy machine guns. Alternatively, the machine guns could be supplanted by a battery of four to eight 20mm cannons for an even more powerful frontal "punch".